The good news for Hong Kong’s tourism industry is that visitor numbers this year have been steadily rising. The bad news is that so have complaints from mainland Chinese tourists, Hong Kong’s main tourism source and arguably the most important tourism market in the world.
Arrivals into Hong Kong from mainland China reached 10.8 million over the first five months of 2011, a fifth more than for the same period last year. Overall, the city saw 16.3 million visitors pass through town up until the end of May, a year-on-year rise of 14.5 percent.
Hong Kong’s Consumer Council has meanwhile reported that over the first half of 2011, complaints from mainland Chinese travelers have risen by nearly one-third – from 652 cases last year to 847 cases this year. Most of the complaints stemmed from unsatisfactory sales practices, according to the council.
While those numbers might not look to be so staggering, the fact that many of these complaints are very public in their nature has done nothing to help Hong Kong’s image.
The most recent scandal – following a spate of complaints from tour groups claiming they had been forced by guides to go shopping – saw a tour leader last week allegedly assault a mainland Chinese tourist after a argument over (again) shopping arrangements.
Hong Kong has done much to play down the issue of complaints. Its tourism board has called for a new – and enforced – standard of practices for tour guides and its consumer council has claimed the rise in complaints is simply a matter of there being more people coming to town.
The city is pinning its future on continuing to attract the lion’s share of China’s outbound tourists – 22.7 million of them visited last year. Overall China is expected to send 65 million tourists overseas this year.